Pancreatic cancer

"Of the factors known to favor the appearance of pancreatic cancer, tobacco is the one that seems to have demonstrated its association in more studies".


Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive tumors of the digestive tract.

Most patients with pancreatic cancer die from this disease because the tumors are diagnosed late, when they are no longer curable.

The position of the pancreas in the body, behind the stomach and colon and in intimate contact with important abdominal structures such as the duodenum, the bile duct, the intestinal arteries and veins, the aorta, etc., causes the tumor to invade other organs and spread rapidly.


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What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

The most common symptoms are weight loss and jaundice.

The tumor is often located in the pancreatic head. At this level, it invades the bile duct very early, causing the flow of bile from the liver to the intestine to be interrupted, resulting in the patient becoming "yellow" and often having generalized itching, due to the absence of bile salt removal.

Back pain, at the theoretical height of the stomach, is another frequent symptom, especially in tumors that affect the body of the pancreas, and is a sign of infiltration of nerve plexuses and, therefore, of poor prognosis.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Weight loss.
  • Jaundice.
  • Back pain.
  • Generalized itches.

Do you have any of these symptoms?

You may have pancreatic cancer

What are the causes of pancreatic cancer?

Of the factors known to favor the appearance of pancreatic cancer, tobacco is the one that seems to have demonstrated its association in more studies.

Other factors such as alcohol, coffee or fat consumption, are not clear to favor its appearance.

The diet rich in vegetables and fruits has demonstrated its beneficial effect in the prevention of this cancer, as well as others.

What are the risk factors for pancreatic cancer?

Certain risk factors may be associated with an increased likelihood of pancreatic cancer:

  • Age: risk increases sharply after age 50. At the time of diagnosis, most patients are between 60 and 80 years of age.
  • Race: Blacks are more likely than other ethnic groups to have pancreatic cancer.
  • Smoking: The risk is higher in smokers.
  • Family history: the exact genes responsible have not been properly identified, although DNA alterations that increase a person's risk for other types of cancer increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • Obesity: people with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 are more likely.
  • Chronic pancreatitis: This prolonged inflammation of the pancreas is associated with a slightly increased risk of pancreatic cancer. 
  • Sudden-onset diabetes: Diabetes can be a risk factor and early symptom of pancreatic cancer. 

How is pancreatic cancer diagnosed?

Diagnosis in early stages of the disease is sometimes difficult.

When jaundice appears, in addition to blood tests, the most appropriate initial examination for diagnosis is ultrasound.

In most cases, it will be necessary to perform an abdominal CAT scan, which allows for a correct diagnosis and an assessment of the extent of the disease.

Especially, if it is not possible to operate, a sample must be taken to confirm the diagnosis. This biopsy can be done through a digestive endoscopy or, if necessary, an echoendoscopy, or through a fine needle puncture-aspiration (FNP), which is directed to the desired area with radiological control.

How is pancreatic cancer treated?

The only curative treatment for pancreatic cancer is surgery, which consists of the removal of the pancreatic head along with the bile duct, the duodenum, and sometimes part of the stomach. It is a relatively long surgery with a sometimes complicated post-operative period. Nowadays, the mortality rate from the operation is practically nil.

In recent years, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments have been developed as complementary to surgery, both before and after the intervention.

Palliative treatment is focused on reducing symptoms to improve quality of life: pain relief and solution of biliary and digestive obstruction.

Pain is usually controlled in the Pain Units, and sometimes it may be necessary to resort to "destruction" procedures of the affected nerves. Palliation of jaundice can be achieved by placing prostheses in the obstructed bile duct.

Proton therapy for cancer

Proton therapy is the most precise external radiotherapy modality, providing better distribution of radiation dose and therefore less irradiation of healthy tissues.

The Proton Therapy Unit of the Cancer Center Clínica Universidad de Navarra in its Madrid headquarters is the most advanced in Europe and the first in a Cancer Center, with all its healthcare, academic and research support.

Where do we treat it?


The Liver and Pancreatic Cancer Area
of the Cancer Center Clínica Universidad de Navarra

The Liver and Pancreas Cancer Area is a multidisciplinary area exclusively for the comprehensive approach of tumor pathology of the liver, pancreas and biliary tract, as well as living donor liver transplantation. 

Patient care will be coordinated by a single reference person who is an expert in these pathologies and who will be in charge of informing and coordinating consultations, tests, treatments, surgeries, etc., in less than 24 hours.

Diseases we treat

Imagen de la fachada de consultas de la sede en Pamplona de la Clínica Universidad de Navarra

Why at the Clinica?

  • Integral evaluation of the patient.
  • Possibility of beginning personalized treatment 24 hours after the first consultation.
  • Minimally invasive surgery for the best recovery of patients.

Our team of professionals

A multidisciplinary team of renowned prestige being at the forefront


Advanced Therapy Unit

The Advanced Therapies Unit of Clínica Universidad de Navarra has been established in order to deal exclusively with cellular therapies against cancer and other diseases of the immune system, favouring their administration and seeking to increase the safety of these treatments.

A multidisciplinary team of highly specialised nurses together with physicians from all the specialities involved in the approach to those treatments that depend on advanced therapy drugs and immunotherapy